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SPEECH at Tiwai Point: Turning the Tiwai Story around

Good morning. Thank you for taking time between shifts to come and listen to New Zealand First.

This election is the most important one facing voters in over a generation. How the country’s economy recovers from the Covid pandemic will be front and centre in your minds.

As will the security of your jobs and whether your children will have more and better choices. How much of the country’s debt they will have to pay back is certainly at the front of our thinking about this election.

You here this morning are at the sharpest end of these country-wide concerns because your jobs are under direct threat.

And because of this, Tiwai has been the focal point for politicians of all stripes ever since Rio Tinto made their announcement that they intended to close the smelter on 31 August 2021.

The Labour Party come down to Invercargill to woo you in mid-July with talk of a ‘Just Transition,’ although a transition to what, when, and how, was and remains far less clear.

New Zealand First came down to see you a week later and was very clear about our position:

  • We destroyed the misnomer that Tiwai benefitted from cheap power pricing;
  • We revealed the abysmal Muldoon pricing increase of 350 percent, which began a spiral of government interference with first Comalco, then Rio Tinto that has continued unabated;
  • We showed how in the original agreement the smelter paid the actual cost of supply plus a 10 percent margin, and;
  • The loser, ever since successive unprincipled actions of governments, has been the good people of Southland and their job security and futures.
  • New Zealand First policy in Government is to protect your jobs and save the smelter.   

The National Party – who wrote you all off under Bill English – came calling at the end of August, now offering to be an ‘honest broker’ by facilitating negotiations between Rio Tinto, power companies and Transpower to keep the smelter open a few years longer.

But let me tell you, from first-hand experience National are not skilled negotiators. That’s why, despite a good election result, they’ve spent the past three years in futile opposition. So Rio won’t be picking up the phone to them anytime soon. 

And speaking of futile opposition, the ACT Party couldn’t even be bothered to come and see you, instead issuing a decree from Epsom that government regulation could save the day. Rio Tinto slept right through that one.

As far as we can tell, the Greens also want to transition you because they think closing down the smelter is a good thing. They want to see it and you closed down.

Fancy instead a large environmentally-friendly factory pumping out crystals while you send your kids to Green Schools, if you can afford it?

No, didn’t think so.

The common thread that links the other parties and their ideas is that they are all wrong, have been found out, and now are scrambling to pose as your best friend.

New Zealand First pledges to you that re-elected into government we will save the smelter.

We are committed to a 20-year agreement. Yes, 20 years. Not 5, not closure. But a 20-year agreement with a 10-year review, and with a fair electricity cost based on the cost of supply and a respectable margin.

And what is a respectable margin?

Something like the original agreement of 10 percent when this great Southland enterprise first started.

Additionally, we are going to ensure that New Zealand procurement, by New Zealand, applies to aluminium and not give preference to junk aluminium imported from offshore.

You have the best aluminium in the world. We’re going to make sure you keep producing it.

Tiwai contributes over $450 million annually to Southland and we’re going to ensure that grows, not stops.

Two thousand, six hundred families depend on the smelter, directly or indirectly, and we’re going to keep every last one of those jobs.

But if you want that policy to become a reality then you are going to have to do something.

First, recognise that you’ll be facing all sorts of enemies that don’t give a rat’s derriere about you, your family, your town, your city or your province.

That includes politicians that know you are being ripped off, but won’t raise a finger to help you because they want to transition you out of your livelihood.

Why? Because they think they know better what is best for you and your families.

But if you really want a future, and you sure deserve to have it, then you’re going to have to send Wellington a very clear message “We’ve had a gutsful and we’re not taking anymore”.

In short you have to “Back your Future.”

Tell the capital city that you’re not going anywhere.

And if you vote for New Zealand First we will amplify your voice so that it cannot be drowned out, silenced or ignored.

There is a future to protect and you and we need each other’s help to make it happen.

Right here, right now.

Thank you.

 

Rt Hon Winston Peters, Leader of New Zealand First

winston.peters@parliament.govt.nz

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